If there is one person that the Democrats can thank for their current majority — and thus for the power to have passed the American Rescue Plan — it is Georgia voting rights activist and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Abrams efforts to maximize voter turn out in her state in the face of GOP attempts to erect roadblocks that make voting more difficult in areas that traditionally voted for Democrats were what enabled the victories of President Biden last November and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Senate runoff elections in January and gave her party the strength to begin to turn the country around after the debacle of the Trump administration.
Unfortunately, the success of Abrams’ campaign to expand the turnout among minorities and other voters that may have sat out the elections in past years has motivated Georgia Republicans and their counterparts in other GOP-led states to propose and enact a new series of laws that will restrict access to the polls and make future elections more difficult for Democrats to win through increases in voter turnout.
Abrams vociferously challenged this Republican-initiated legislation as profoundly racist in an appearance on CNN‘s State of the Union this morning in which she argued forcefully for the passage of the federal voting rights bill currently being considered in Congress.
As the leader of voting rights advocacy organization Fair Fight, Abrams echoed the opinion of State Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also argued that attempts by Georgia Republicans to limit voter’s access to the ballot box were racist.
“First of all, I do absolutely agree that it’s racist. It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” Abrams told host Jake Tapper. “It’s not that there was a question of security. In fact, the secretary of state and the governor went to great pains to assure America that Georgia’s elections were secure, and so the only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like.”
In Abram’s eyes, the only solution to counteract these anti-democratic GOP efforts is the passage of legislation at the federal level ensuring that all Americans have equal access to exercise their right to vote.
While many people have predicted that the only way to ensure that a Senate equally divided between the parties can pass such legislation — given the 60 vote supermajority required for approval — is to first eliminate the filibuster rules in that chamber, Abrams feels that such a drastic step may not be necessary.
“I don’t believe that it’s necessary to wholly eliminate the filibuster to accomplish the purposes of passing these bills,” Abrams said on State of The Union.
“The Elections Clause in the Constitution guarantees that the Congress alone has the power to regulate the time, manner and place of elections. That is a power that is sacrosanct,” she declared. “We are watching across this country as individual legislators try to use the big lie to restrict access to the right to vote.”
While arguing that, in reality, voting rights legislation should be exempt from the filibuster, Abrams believes that even an adjustment in the Senate rules about how the filibuster works can be enough to get the new laws across the finish line.
In the face of Republicans who seemingly have little faith in the basic principles of Democracy (or believe that its principles only apply to white men), Abrams’ optimism may seem misplaced.
However, there is likely no other individual in this country better suited to fighting against this politically cynical manipulation of the electoral process than this Black woman activist from Georgia.
Hopefully, Senate Democrats will heed her words and make the changes necessary to pass the voting rights legislation before the next set of national elections.
You can watch an excerpt of Stacey Abrams’ appearance on CNN‘s State of the Union in the video below.
Stacey Abrams says she agrees with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that efforts by GOP lawmakers in Georgia to make it more difficult to vote is “racist.”
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) March 14, 2021
Original reporting by Joseph Choi at The Hill.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.